Making holiday gifts affordable

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, November 27, 2007

While the Christmas season is one of giving, it can also be oneof frustrations when it comes not only to affording gifts, butcoming up with original gifts.

Some creative people find crafty ways to add a touch ofpersonality to gifts that, while not being terribly pricey, areuseful, tasteful and attractive.

Paige Anderson, of Wesson, has taken scrapbooking to the desklevel by adding scrapbooking pieces to picture frames as affordablepersonal gifts. She said it’s a good way to unwind mentally whilegetting her Christmas gift list knocked out.

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“It’s relaxing, and there’s no pressure, because if you do itand mess up, you just redo it, and sometimes the mess-ups work outtoo,” said Anderson. “There was one and I couldn’t figure it out,but when I went to take a break, I just dropped the pictures on theframe and they landed funny, and it actually looked good.”

The fun of giving the gifts lies not only in the affordability,but the personalization that can be added to each individualgift.

“Everyone gets what they want now, and everyone has everything,”Anderson said. “It’s special to be able to give them somethingpersonal that means something to them.”

Anderson said the costs can be kept low by picking upinexpensive frames, even though the scrapbooking materials can beexpensive. But even then, pieces of magazines and Christmas andbirthday cards can be used, making a professional-looking memorykeeper from basic boring ingredients.

“It’s a different way to showcase your pictures on the wall.People have these pictures in basic frames on the wall or in ascrapbook on the shelf,” Anderson said. “This way it adds adifferent touch to it.”

And there’s an important sense of accomplishment that is assatisfying as the unwinding aspect that goes along with creatingthe gifts, Anderson said.

“At the end of it, you’ve got something to show for your workthat will make someone smile and think of you when they look atit,” she said. “Plus, when the kids go to sleep and your husbandgoes to bed, you get to have some productive quiet time toyourself.”

She said she has made the frames as gifts for many members ofher family and friend circle, and that she has even made them forfriends to give as gifts.

“I think I’ve done it for everyone else,” she said, indicatingone large frame full of pictures of her family. “This is the firstone I ever did for me.”

Meanwhile, Shellie Jordan, of Brookhaven, is making pictureframes this year as well, but she has several other projects in theworks. For example, she has made candles of all different scents inpast years for family and friends at Christmas time. She said shegot the idea from her sister.

“My sister in Arkansas was making candles when I went up therefor a summer and I started helping her,” said Jordan. “It’sdifferent to make your own, because you can choose the scent, andit’s not like buying it in a store.”

Sometimes candles can be personalized to the recipient’s homejust like other gifts, Jordan said. Colors, scents, and candleholders can be varied based on the home they’ll be going to.

“Sometimes you walk in someone’s house and you know what theylike because of the smells or decorations in there,” she said. “Ihave a friend who likes fruity smells, and I made her a passionfruit candle, and did it a milder color, a mild pink in a glassdish, since it’s Christmas time.”

Jordan said she often packages the candles in a gift basket anddresses it up for the season. A clear glass ornament painted with aChristmas message or scene can add another inexpensive personaltouch.

“I take a basket and put those silver icicles for the Christmastree inside it, and I put the candle and a painted ornament andsometimes a dishcloth with a Christmas scene,” she said. “I try tomake the candle a color that is close to something I can paint onthe ball or something on the towel so it all matches.”

A ribbon at the top completes the gift, which she said is fun togive because it’s personal.

“My grandmother told me once that she’d much rather havesomething I’ve made than something I’ve bought,” said Jordan. “Mymother-in-law said the same thing.”

Jordan said the one thing about the candle project that proves alittle more expensive is finding different scents for everyone onthe gift list. She makes up for that by breaking even when friendsask her to make candle baskets they can give as gifts as well.

“I have a couple of friends who will buy them to give away, andI’ll break even or come close to it,” she said.

Meanwhile, Copiah County’s Nicki Chandler found an inexpensiveand tasty way to reach everyone on the gift list. She said having alarge number of co-workers and friends to buy for in addition toher family made the idea of homemade cocoa mix appealing not onlyto the taste buds, but the pocketbook.

“I make cocoa mix for people, and it’s my mother’s specialrecipe,” she said. “You just take a mason jar and put the recipe onthe side of it. That’s my Christmas gift, and it’s so easy.”

But the mix isn’t only special because it’s a special recipe,it’s also been a family tradition for Chandler since she was young.Chandler’s parents, Bonnie and Eldon Pitts, of Crystal Springs,would take her around town to deliver the cocoa and look at holidaydecorations after they had spent a day together on giftconstruction.

“This was my mom’s tradition when I was growing up, because bothof my parents worked so we really tried to make use of the time wewere able to spend together, especially during the holidays,” shesaid. “This was something that we could all pitch in on. Dadusually mixed the ingredients, Mom cut the fabric and wrote thecards, and I assembled the jars.”

Chandler said there are a number of things that can be done todress up the cocoa mix, like including a bag of marshmallows or aspecial mug to go with it.

” You just put it in a large canning jar and stick a piece offabric under the lid and tie a bow around it,” she said. “And Ialso give a mug with it.”

The recipe, which includes all the special ingredients so allthat needs to be added is hot water and marshmallows, can also beprinted on Christmas tags or hand-decorated card stock with apersonal message or Christmas greeting, Chandler said.

“It’s a great way to show that you remember and care about yourco-workers and whoever you don’t have a lot of extra money to getgifts for at Christmas time,” she said.